“Those who wish to sing, always find a song.” - Swedish Proverb
Music is a popular pastime for many but for some, it’s also a job. Across the UK, over 2 million people sing regularly. Everyone has a different voice and they need to learn how to master it.
It’s part of our life and who we are. Men and women tend to have different voices due to the size of their vocal cords.
So what are the different types of voices? What are the differences between deep voices and high voices? What differentiates a bass from a tenor?
In this article, we're going to look at the different types of male voice, the lower ranges and the higher ranges, how you can find out what your voice type is so that you can work on it, and why we classify voice types.
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The Different Types of Male Voice
Our voices can be used for speaking but they can also be used for singing. Whether you’re a member of a choir, doing an opera, or singing in church on a Sunday, your voice is a tool that you should learn how to use and learn what works for it.
Voices can be categorised and have been for a long time. In fact, there are many ways to categorise them. We’ll get to some of those in a bit.
As for now, we’ll look at the main types of male voices.
The deepest male vocal range is the bass voice. There are two main types of bass:
- Basso cantante, singing bass.
- Basso profondo, or low bass. This is quite a rare voice type.
Famous basses include:
- Louis Armstrong
- Leonard Cohen
- Barry White
- Ike Turner
- Ray Davis
- And many others!
The next vocal range after bass is baritone. This is quite a common voice type and is quite similar to many people’s spoken voice range.
There’s also the baritone bass, which, as its name indicates, is lower than baritone but higher than bass. In general, this is usually the range of bad guys in operas, plays, and musicals.
Higher Male Vocal Ranges
The third type of voice is the tenor. This voice is less dramatic than the two previous types but it’s also more melodic. Luciano Pavarotti was probably the most famous tenor in recent history.
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Again, there are two main subcategories of tenor:
- Lyric tenor
There’s also the countertenor, which corresponds to the contralto female voice. While few men can reach these high notes (traditionally, castrati played these roles), this is a special type of voice.
Countertenors need a special technique to vibrate their vocal cords in such a way. This vibration allows them to make beautiful gospel music and perform in musicals.
The countertenors approach the vocal range of the female contralto voice. However, the male voice tends to have a different quality to the female voice.
After all, it’s not just the range that defines a voice. For example, you can play the same note on a guitar and a piano but they won't sound the same. This is also true for people's voices; two different people singing the same note won't sound the same on account of their voice.
Finding and Working on Your Voice Type
In addition to your vocal range, your voice will have certain quality and there are a number of subcategories applied to voice types. However, unless you have perfect pitch, you might not know what kind of voice you have.
If you find yourself between two common voice types, things can get a little complicated. For example, there’s a fine line between countertenor and tenor.
Additionally, the classification of voices has become increasingly precise over time.
Understanding the Different Types of Male Voice
Before the 19th century, voices were only classified as either male or female. It was difficult to find a man who sang in a higher range, for example. Then, we started to classify male and female voices as either high or low, which then became tenor, baritone, bass, etc.
At the start of the 19th century, even more classifications arose. There were dramatic voices, light voices, lyric voices, basso profondo, basso cantante, etc. Finally, the idea of power came about and you could be an operetta baritone, a Wagnerian tenor, etc.
The power of a man’s voice is as important as a woman's. It’s a cliché that a man’s voice is deep and powerful. In fact, some male singers have very light voices and there’s a whole range of different voice types and qualities. While men can't be classified as having a mezzo-soprano voice, for example, they can learn more about their timbre and their voice, be it a tenor voice, bass-baritone voice, etc.
Find out more about female voice types.
How to Find Your Voice
It’s never been easier to work out your voice type.
If you have a piano, keyboard, or even computer handy, you can work out your vocal range. You just need to play notes and see if you can hit them. You’ll get to a point where you can no longer hit the notes. Similarly, there are also books and websites to help you work out where your voice sits in terms of the traditional vocal ranges. In fact, there are even online tools and resources for working out your voice type.
Knowing your voice type will help you find suitable songs that match your range and colour. This will help you improve more quickly and get ready for a concert, for example. There’s such a wide range of male voices that the sooner you understand which one you’ve got, the quicker you can master it. There’s a huge difference between tenor and bass, after all.
We all know that music can be soothing and knowing how to use your voice can make it even more soothing. No matter what voice type you have, you have to understand what your vocal cords are capable of. Your voice is your instrument, after all.
It's over to you!
You can also learn more about registers from a singing coach or tutor. They can even show you artists with the same tessitura as you. Again, a tutor can help you work out the best repertoire. If you'd like to learn more about singing, consider getting help from one of the talented tutors on Superprof. There are three main types of singing tutorial and voice coaching and each type has several advantages and disadvantages so what's right for one student may not be right for another.
In face-to-face tutorials, there's just you and the tutor. This means that the tutor can focus on helping you to improve your voice and will put together a bespoke programme for you to follow. These are usually the most costly type of private tutorials since you're paying for all the tutor's time both in and out of class but they're also the most cost-effective.
There are also online tutorials where the student is taught via webcam. With the tutor not having to travel to their lessons and being able to schedule more lessons per week, these tend to cost less per hour than face-to-face tutorials. Since the tutor isn't in the room there with you, these tutorials are better for academic subjects rather than vocational ones. If you both have a good microphone and a good internet connection, online tutorials are a great option for those wanting to learn to sing on a budget.
Finally, there are also tutors offering group tutorials. If you and a group of friends are interested in learning how to sing, you could hire a tutor together and divide the cost of the tutor's time. Of course, you won't get as much individual attention from your singing coach as you would in the other types of tutorials but you will pay less per hour per student.
No matter which type of singing coach you go for, they'll be able to help you work out your voice type, plan lessons that can help you improve your voice, and suggest songs and activities that work best with your tessitura.
Don't forget that many of the tutors on Superprof also offer free tuition for the first hour! Use this to try a few different tutors and see who you get along with.